The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has formally certified Initiative 1634 for the Nov. 6, 2018 general election ballot, and it could be the ballot item that brings out the voters.
It aims to protect the state from a tax most voters oppose, a tax on food and beverages.
I-1634 brought out a mixed, if not unusual base of support. Liberal groups, such as Teamsters unions, and conservative groups, such as farm bureaus, worked together.
More than 1,000 Washington residents joined small businesses, farm bureaus, labor organizations and Chambers of Commerce to support I-1634.
A total of 381,479 signatures were submitted in support of I-1634, according to the Secretary of State.
“Initiative 1634 has generated such a strong and diverse base of support because voters are legitimately concerned with the rising cost of living and a regressive tax structure that is hitting families and independent community businesses the hardest,” Jeff Philipps, coalition member and President of Rosauers Supermarkets, said.
Washington state doesn’t collect taxes on food and beverages, but there is a loophole in the law that lets local governments impose taxes on groceries.
According to the Coalition, the Seattle City Council exploited this loophole in 2017 to pass a tax on beverages.
The tax raised beverage prices astronomically, but prices on other products also went up as business owners worked to implement the complicated policy.
There’s nothing to stop other cities and towns from doing the same thing with any grocery items, the Coalition claimed.
I-1634 will close this loophole for any future new taxes on food and beverages, but Seattle would keep its tax.
I-1634 does not reverse any taxes or revenue streams that currently exist, the Coaltion said.
“We see local governments faced with budget challenges that are now considering revenue sources we wouldn’t have thought possible a few years back,” Coalition member and vice president of the Chelan/Douglas County Farm Bureau April Clayton said.
“For family farms and our farming community, taxes will undoubtedly take a toll on agricultural viability and therefore cost local jobs and hurt farmers and ranchers, like me, and our ability to do business,” she said.
“There needs to be a better way to fund our priorities - we need to draw a line to keep groceries affordable and free of new taxes,” Clayton added.